Army reservist Capt. David Keleti posed with his family in March 2002 as he prepared to leave for Bosnia. Now, he is readying for active duty with the Hawaii Army National Guard's 29th Infantry Brigade. He was with wife, Laura, holding Brianna, and children Bryson and Brandii.

Reservists’ call-up
leaves families little
time to prepare

With little less than a month to prepare, Laura Balon-Keleti said the spouses and family members of the Army Reserves' 100th Battalion are beginning to feel the pressure.

"We're just told that the unit was alerted on July 2," said Balon-Keleti, "and boom, they are mobilized and will be gone."

Balon-Keleti was reacting to the news yesterday that her husband, Capt. David Keleti, will be placed on active duty on Aug. 16 as part of the call-up of the Hawaii Army National Guard's 29th Infantry Brigade.

"I'm in shock," she said. "I didn't know it was going to happen so soon. It will put a lot of pressure on the families to be prepared when their husbands and spouses leave."

Balon-Keleti noted that last year the soldiers and family members of the Army Reserves' 411th Engineer Combat Battalion had as long as six months to prepare and spend time with each other. The unit was alerted in late summer, but didn't get its mobilization orders until late November and reported to Schofield Barracks in January. They were allowed to spend three months at home undergoing pre-deployment training.

However, more than 2,100 soldiers from Hawaii and other Pacific islands who belong to the 29th Infantry Brigade will have just under 45 days in the islands before they have to report to Fort Bliss near El Paso, Texas, in October.

Maj. Chuck Anthony, Hawaii National Guard spokesman, said soldiers who live on Oahu will be allowed to go home at night at the end of each training day, while those from the Neighbor Islands and the Pacific areas will be housed at Schofield Barracks or some other military facility.

After Fort Bliss, the 29th Brigade will undergo further evaluation and final combat certification in Louisiana at Fort Polk's Joint Readiness Training Center in January.

The 29th Brigade will begin its first combat deployment since the Vietnam War in late February or early March and will be there for 12 months. It is expected to replace the 81st Army National Guard Brigade from Washington state.

Before the 100th Battalion reports to active duty, it will get a new commander. Lt. Col. Allan Ostermiller is slated to replace Lt. Col. Joseph Krakowiak as part of the Army Reserve's normal command rotation at the end of this month. The 100th Battalion is one of the 29th Brigade's three infantry battalions and has 530 soldiers. They are from Hawaii, American Samoa, Guam, Saipan and the Marianas.

Sgt. Irving Rodrigues, a member of the 100th Battalion's Headquarters and Headquarters Company, said he's been "waiting for this (deployment) for a long time."

Rodrigues, 31, was a member of the Army Reserve in Puerto Rico in 1990 when his combat engineer battalion was alerted for the first Gulf War, but was never activated.

Rodrigues has friends in the 25th Infantry Division, 411th Engineer Battalion and the 45th Support Group who already are in Iraq.

"They told me to work on my physical fitness and also to spend time with our families. They said to make sure your family is OK before you leave," he said.

Sgt. Kristoffer Rosales, 21, also has been trying to get ready mentally and physically for the combat assignment.

"I'm trying to get my legs prepared," said Rosales, also a member of Headquarters and Headquarters Company, "and I am trying to get my body to be physically fit."

Rosales still hasn't told his mother that he will be in Iraq for a year.

"I'm trying to find a good time," he added, noting that his unit schedule has been hectic with the added burden of fulfilling its scheduled 15 days of summer active duty, which started on July 17.

"I guess it will be a shock for her when I have to tell her that I will be starting active duty in a few weeks," Rosales said.

Balon-Keleti, whose husband commands the Headquarters and Headquarters Company, said she is already feeling the time constraint. She has to prepare herself for the long separation, while she is also in charge of the family support group for her husband's unit.

Balon-Keleti said that when her husband was sent to Bosnia two years ago, their youngest child, Brianna, was only three months old. The couple have three other children -- Brandon, 19; Brandii, 11, and Bryson, 6.

"She's now 2," Balon-Keleti said, "and when he gets back she will be close to 4. He will have lost so much time because he wasn't able to spend time with her."

Hawaii National Guard


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